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Commentary: Summer mega-events consume us

September 1, 2008

Just when I thought I could start getting to bed at a decent hour again after the 2008 Olympics were over, up pops the Democratic National Convention from Denver.

I'm not a television watcher. About the only things I find worthwhile on the boob tube are sports, PBS, movies, and arts or cultural programs. The occasional exception might include a cooking show.

Like many Americans, I found myself watching the Beijing games late into the night for most of two weeks.

I couldn't help myself. From Michael Phelps to women's beach volleyball to Chinese divers (and one Australian) to Jamaica's Usain Bolt and much, much more, there were many compelling stories.

With multiple late nights in front of the TV, I found it more and more difficult to get out of bed the next morning. So I was somewhat relieved when the Games were finally over, thinking earlier bedtimes would once again become the norm.

But now comes the Democratic convention, and I, a decidedly non-political animal, have found myself surprisingly interested. Translation: more late nights.

I usually wouldn't give either convention the time of day. But this year it's different.

I'm certain my level of interest is heightened because of the unprecedented nature of this year's competition. We have a Conservative Old White Guy versus a Liberal Young Black Guy who narrowly beat out a woman-and a former first lady to boot-to become his party's candidate for president.

That's a lot to digest. And to me, both Obama and McCain were relatively unknown. Hence, my interest in the conventions; maybe I could actually learn a little something about these guys and their sidekicks.

On Monday night of the Demo-gathering, while sorting through the mostly mindless rah-rah schlock, I found myself moved by a tribute to Ted Kennedy. And he's a guy whose positions I don't much care for. In his condition, it took a lot of strength-physical and emotional-to pull off that performance.

Unfortunately, I missed what by all accounts was a stirring speech by Michelle Obama. But on Tuesday night I found myself thoroughly mesmerized by Hillary Clinton. I may not agree with everything she says, but the woman gave an exceptional speech.

I didn't turn the lights out until midnight that night, and I expected more of the same as the week unfolded, with Joe Biden on Wednesday night-I was really curious about him-and Obama himself on Thursday.

Then, of course, the Republican show was set to begin in Minneapolis on Labor Day, promising-for me at least-another several hours of watching and trying to figure out what makes these people tick.

More late nights. That's four weeks in a row.

I can't remember a time when the two parties' conventions have fallen on consecutive weeks, let alone right on the heels of the Summer Olympics. What's more, I can't remember a time when I really cared.

And here's the kicker. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom that an outdoor-loving guy like me who thrives on every second of daylight saving time could actually be sucked indoors by a television before dark. It's evidence of two things:

First, it proves once again that these mega-events that happen only every few years and last all day and all night bring out the best in television. You can be there for the whole thing, or as much or as little as you like.

Second, as far as the conventions go, it shows how critical an election year this really is. Be a good citizen. Learn as much as you can and get out and vote, no matter whom you're going to vote for.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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